Tuesday, August 21, 2018

It’s ‘the last frontier on Earth that’s truly not well understood,’ and scientists are about to explore it

Left to right (top to bottom): Enypniastes eximia, Doliolid Dolioletta gegenbauri, Anglerfish, Polychaetes and Squid Histioteuthis sp. 

From Boston Globe by David Abel

In the briny deep, far from shore, the vast darkness is home to tiny, glowing fish, massive jellies that may be the largest animals on the planet, and an untold number of other creatures.
What inhabits this realm of the ocean — from about 600 feet to about 3,000 feet — is so shrouded in mystery that scientists call it the “twilight zone.”

At the end of the week, a team of marine biologists, engineers, and other specialists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution will embark on the first long-term study of this netherworld, a nearly lightless region believed to be teeming with life — perhaps more than the rest of the ocean combined.
“It’s the last frontier on Earth that’s truly not well understood,” said Andone Lavery, a senior scientist who will oversee the first expedition.
“We have many questions.”

Chief among them: What animals live there, and how many?
Do they play a role in helping regulate the planet’s climate, and if so, how?
Could these species provide a sustainable source of protein for the world’s growing population?
That last question may be the most controversial.

The scientists, who this year won a $35 million grant from a coalition of philanthropy groups called the Audacious Project, say they plan to spend the next six years mapping the biodiversity of the twilight zone before it’s exploited by the fishing industry.
But some environmental advocates have raised concerns about whether the research could have the opposite effect, opening something of a Pandora’s box by revealing to the industry what bounty lies below.
“There is a clear risk with shining a bright light on these unexploited fish that live in the darker parts of the ocean,” said Gib Brogan, a fisheries policy analyst for Oceana, a Washington-based advocacy group.
“Gold-rush fisheries don’t benefit anyone in the long term.”

Peter Auster, a marine sciences professor at the University of Connecticut who serves as a senior research scientist at the Mystic Aquarium, urged officials to prevent the findings from being put to commercial use without thoughtful regulations.
“New knowledge can lead to unforeseen consequences,” he said.
“Policymakers and management agencies need to get in front of potential problems and keep new fisheries from developing until they can assess impacts and insure sustainable use.”

At Woods Hole, the scientists leading the research acknowledged the dilemma, but they contend that the potential for new knowledge outweighs the risks.
“If large-scale harvesting starts before we understand it, that’s a recipe for disaster,” said Heidi Sosik, a Woods Hole biologist and the lead investigator of the project.

Her hope, she said, is that learning more about the region will ultimately help preserve it.
“At this point, we don’t even know basic information, such as how long the fish there live,” she said.
“Without knowing that, we can’t possibly make informed decisions about how to interact with this ecosystem in a sustainable way.”

 DEEP-SEE testing at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

Yet with many fisheries around the world severely depleted, new fishing grounds would be a welcome development, so long as scientists can ensure it’s done sustainably, she said.

In some cases, fishermen are already harvesting organisms that inhabit the twilight zone.
Large trawlers in recent years have been scooping up increasing quantities of crustaceans that migrate from surface waters to the deep sea, grinding their catch into fishmeal for aquaculture or pet food.

Many of those trawlers, however, are operating in international waters, beyond the reach of US law.
Sosik said she hopes the team’s findings will eventually help forge international agreements that would prevent overfishing of the twilight zone.
“If we can sustainably harvest this part of the ocean, without massively disrupting larger ocean structures, I’m all for that,” she said.
“We need high quality sources of protein, but it needs to be effective exploitation, not overexploitation.”

On a recent morning, Sosik’s team tested some of the new technology designed to peer into the great abyss.

A crane lowered one of the new instruments — a $1.2 million, 2,500-pound, specially designed system of sonars and cameras called DEEP-SEE — into a test well.
Using strobe lights, the 16-foot-longsystem has the capacity to detect microbes and other organisms as small as the width of human hair.

Being able to see such small organisms, and determine their numbers and habits with sophisticated sonar systems, should allow the researchers to better understand where the organisms migrate and what triggers their movement.
Many species in the twilight zone — everything from plankton to squid — are believed to participate every night in what the scientists call the largest migration on the planet, rising from the deep to feed near the surface before returning by daybreak to the safety of the darker, deeper sea.

That migration is believed to help regulate the planet’s climate.
As fish and other species migrate, they carry large amounts of carbon dioxide from surface waters into the deep ocean.
They do so through the cycle of small creatures ingesting phytoplankton, tiny plants that absorb carbon near the surface, and then transferring that to the larger species that eat them.

Nearly all the carbon that makes it to the deeper sea — through dead plankton, shells, and fecal matter, among other things — remains there, locking it away from being released as a heat-trapping gas into the atmosphere.

The members of the research team, which include robotocists, ecologists, chemists, and economists, also plan to study how ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream affect the twilight zone and why many of the animals there are bioluminescent, emitting colorful lights that allow them to attract mates and ward off predators.

Over the coming years, the researchers will be introducing a range of sophisticated new sensors, autonomous robots, advanced cameras, and other new tools.

For now, their immediate goal is to ensure that the new equipment works.

On Friday, they will start a 10-day expedition on a research vessel on loan from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The ship will travel about 150 miles south of Woods Hole to the closest deep waters, a section of the North Atlantic that’s about 6,000 feet deep.
“It’s kind of surreal that this is happening,” Sosik said.
“A year ago, it was just a dream.”
She added: “We’re hoping to learn amazing things.”

Links :

Monday, August 20, 2018

Denmark Faroë islands & Greenland (DGA) layer update in the GeoGarage platform

119 nautical raster charts & insets updated

The travel guides that charted our world

A devout Jesuit, Scherer’s maps usually contain religious overtones. Here, in its north polar projection of the world, Magellan’s circumnavigation is tracked and dated.
The myth of California as an island continues.
On the left is an engraving of Victoria, the only remaining ship from Magellan’s armada.
On the right, the few survivors of the voyage are shown making their way to the Santa María de la Victoria church in Seville, where they go to give thanks for their safe return.
The date, from the cartouche above the scene, is September 7, 1522; the number of men is 18 out of the original 237.


From BBC by Rossi Thomson

Essentially travel guides, these old books and maps were used by sailors, academics and travellers in the 15th and the 16th Centuries to navigate and explore the world.

Checking a navigation mobile app to quickly establish how to get from point A to point B has become second nature to us.
Measured in megabytes, the world now fits in our pockets.
It is quite astonishing, then, to see first-hand that only a few centuries ago geographical knowledge was yet to be fully charted, and how religious beliefs and fear of the unknown co-existed with burgeoning scientific know-how.

“Look here,” said Mattea Gazzola as her gloved hand pointed to the 570-year-old planisfero (a planisphere, or spherical world map) in front of us.
“To the east is the Biblical Paradise depicted as a walled town dotted with towers. To the south is an unbearably hot impassable desert, and to the north lies another desert uninhabited due to extreme cold. In the centre of the world is Jerusalem.”

Giovanni Leardo’s planisphere is based on Ptolemy’s geocentric model (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

This world map, which dates to 1448 and was authored on parchment by Venetian cartographer Giovanni Leardo, is both beautiful and intriguing.
Combining Ptolemy’s geocentric model (the idea that the Earth is at the centre of the Solar System), Christian beliefs, pagan symbols, Arabic geographical theories and scientific formulas, it represents the continents as they were then-known by Europeans, surrounded by a big ocean.
Six concentric circles drawn around the world and filled in with tiny, neat numbers and letters allow the user to calculate when Easter takes place, the months of the year and the phases of the moon.

The Italian word ‘planisfero’ comes from the Latin planus (flat) and sphaera (sphere), and there are only three known of these world maps hand drawn and signed by Leardo.
The oldest one (1442) is held at the Biblioteca Comunale in Verona; the newest (1452) is kept by the American Geographical Society Library; and the middle one (1448) takes pride of place in the collection of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana in Vicenza, a smaller Italian city sandwiched between Venice and Verona.

Housed in a former Somascan monastery, the archive of Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana contains thousands of rare books and manuscripts.
If placed in a line, they would stretch more than 19km.
Over the centuries, these tomes were donated to the library by the rich noble families of Vicenza, a city known for its architectural heritage, historical silk and jewellery trades, as well as its allegiance to the Republic of Venice during its maritime heyday.

Now, some of the most precious and intriguing of these books and manuscripts lay on a wide, old-fashioned desk in front of me in the dusky room of the library's archive.
Essentially travel guides, these books and maps were used by sailors, academics and travellers in the 15th and the 16th Centuries to navigate and explore the world.

Leafing through them, Gazzola – the library's archivist – told a story.

A new era of mapping the world

Between the invention of the printing press in c.
1440 and the Age of Exploration reaching one of its pinnacles in the late 15th and early 16th Centuries, a revolution took place in the art of mapping and describing the world.
First-hand knowledge gained through seafaring, commerce, geographical discoveries, complex mathematical calculations and even religious pilgrimages to the Holy Land came flooding in and changing the outlines of the maps of the times.

Within 150 years, the geographical model of Leardo's planisfero was left behind, and the world more or less as we know it today emerged.

An important step along the way was the publication (in 1475 in Vicenza) of the first printed edition of Ptolemy's Geography in Latin.
Claudius Ptolemy, a 2nd-Century Greco-Roman mathematician, astronomer and geographer, had described the world known to the Roman Empire at the time and assigned geographical coordinates to all places.
As such, Earth was a strip of flat land about 70 degrees wide with Cadiz to the west and India or Cathay (China) to the east.

Maps based on Ptolemy’s Geography facilitated the exploratory travels during the 15th Century (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

Ptolemy's work was re-discovered by Byzantine scholar Maximus Planudes in the 13th Century, and for hundreds of years Ptolemy was held as the supreme authority on all things cartographic and geographical.
Unfortunately, his original maps had been lost, and Planudes recreated them on the basis of the written text and coordinates.

After Ptolemy's Geography had been translated from Greek into Latin in 1406 by hand, more maps were drawn by many different cartographers based on Ptolemy’s text, coordinates and mathematical calculations.
These maps facilitated the exploratory travels during the 15th Century and led to a renaissance in cartography.

The 1475 Vicenza edition of Ptolemy's Geography didn't include the maps (only his original text and coordinates).
Instead, Gazzola showed me a later edition of the seminal work published in Rome on 4 November 1490.
The large and heavy tome is interspersed with 31 detailed printed maps which had been coloured by hand in yellow and ochre tones for the lands and blue shades for the seas.

Typically for an incunabulum (the term used to designate the earliest printed books, especially ones before 1501), the book doesn't have a frontispiece.
Just like a manuscript, this early edition of Ptolemy's Geography starts directly with the text without any preface.
“Frontispieces giving the name of the author, the work and the printing date only really started being used after 1500,” Gazzola explained.
This is when the Venetian humanist scholar and publisher Aldus Manutius revolutionised the printing world.
“The modern book starts with him.”
In the era of the Venetian dominance over the Adriatic and the Mediterranean seas, Manutius established the printing office Aldine Press (in Venice), was the first to introduce italics fonts, and published more than 130 books in Greek and Latin.

A harbinger of modern-day travel guides

The next travel book Gazzola showed me had a detailed, beautifully printed frontispiece.
And a very long title: Quae intus continentur Syria, Palestina, Arabia, Aegyptus, Schondia, Holmiae, Regionum Superiorum Singuale Tabulae Geographicae.

Jacobus Ziegler’s work includes descriptions aimed to help travellers to the Biblical lands (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

Written by the Bavarian humanist and theologian Jacobus Ziegler and published in 1532 in Strasbourg, this is a harbinger of modern-day travel guides.
The book includes a detailed description of the Biblical lands and aims to help pilgrims on their travels through them.
It contains information about the different cities there and the local traditions, thus setting the tone for the millions of travel guides to be published around the world from then onwards.

Gazzola picked up a small leather-bound book that she described as ‘molto geniale’, or ‘very clever’ in English.
This is Cosmographia (also known as Cosmographicus Liber) by the German humanist and print-shop owner Petrus Apianus.

Known for his works in the fields of mathematics, cartography and astronomy, Apianus published Cosmographia in 1524.
It was one of the first works to base geography on mathematics and measurements.
Such was its success that it was reprinted 30 times in 14 languages.
The one I was looking at was a first edition in Latin printed in 1540 in Antwerp (one of the three leading centres of early European printing, along with Venice and Paris).

Exploring astronomy and navigation, Cosmographia is notable for its use of volvelles, wheel charts with rotating parts.
Made by layering several pieces of printed paper, the volvelle forms a complicated instrument – an early example of a calculator or an analogue computer – that allows the user to determine the position of the stars, lunar phases and the zodiacal signs, as well as other important factors for sea travel.

“Preparing the wooden plates to print the different parts of the intricate volvelles would take weeks,” Gazzola said while gently flipping the top layer of one of these devices to show me that the paper used for its construction was printed with music notes on the reverse.
Print shops at the time would recycle even the smallest scraps due to the high price of paper.

Apart from four volvelles, Cosmographia is also famous for containing a world map, which is one of the earliest to show in detail the entire east coast of North America.

Geographic knowledge was constantly expanding at the time.
One of the contributing factors for this was the technical travel literature – a body of abacus books, port tariffs, multilingual glossaries, maps and pilot books – helping the Italian Maritime Republics explore and control the merchant and military naval routes in the Mediterranean.

Hand-drawn parchment maps called ‘portolanos’ were created by ships’ cartographers (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

Cartographers working on ships produced detailed nautical charts.
Gazzola picked up a portolano, a hand-drawn parchment map outlining all known Mediterranean ports, coastal cities, naval routes, docking areas and compass roses.

Little icons indicated the character of each place.
For example, there were drawings of a camel, a lion and an ostrich on the African coast.
Colourful flags flapped above turreted city icons, and countless place names neatly traced the coastlines.

The portolano dates to the second half of the 16th Century.
As it was a work tool, it was not signed by its author and changes could be freely made to it in accordance with the navigational needs of the ship on which it was used.

The first coffee table book?

Unlike the portolano, the next book Gazzola showed me was devised as a splendid forerunner of coffee table books.
Called Theatre of the World (in Latin, Theatrum Orbis Terrarum), it is the first true modern atlas.
Written by the Flemish scholar and geographer Abraham Ortelius, it was originally printed in 1570 in Antwerp.
For the first time, one book contained the whole of Western European geographic knowledge in both text and maps.
The maps, based on the work of the best cartographers, were uniformly scaled and printed using copper plates and then hand-coloured with paints that still look incredibly bright and fresh.

Such was the Renaissance hunger for geographic and scientific knowledge of the rich middle classes – who valued books as a symbol of knowledge – that the atlas was repeatedly reprinted in Latin, French, German and Dutch among other languages.

Abraham Ortelius’ Theatre of the World is considered the zenith of 16th-Century cartography (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

At the time of its many publications between 1570 and 1612, Theatre of the World was a highly valued and rather expensive book that the rich merchants and noblemen of Europe liked to add to their prized collections.
Nowadays, it is considered the zenith of 16th-Century cartography.

Many of the maps contained in it are based on sources that no longer exist or are extremely rare.
The names of the geographers and cartographers both used as sources by and known to Ortelius were provided in an extensive list called Catalogus auctorum tabularum geographicarum (Catalogue of the Authors of the Geographical Maps) in the Theatre of the World.

In 1570, the list in the first edition included 87 names; in just over three decades it had grown to 183 names.
Among them, for example, is the naturalist Charles de l'Écluse (better known by his Latin name Carolus Clusius) who published one of the earliest books on Spanish flora and whose work inspired the map of Spain in Ortelius’ Theatre of the World.

Theatre of the World features a small drawing of Ferdinand Magellan’s ship, Victoria (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

The atlas is astonishing to look at.
Apart from depicting strictly geographical features, each map is also adorned with detailed drawings of local customs as well as phantasmagorical creatures.
The edition kept at the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana is from 1592 and it contains 108 maps.
It represents the world much as we know it today.

Curiously enough, a map of South America features a small drawing of Victoria, one of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan's five ships and the first to successfully circumnavigate the world.
Coincidentally, a notable passenger on Victoria was one Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's diarist and one of only 18 people to return from the daring expedition.
Born in Vicenza, Pigafetta's name is still very much known and respected in the city.

The first voyage around the world

“Here it is,” Gazzola said and pulled out one last book.
“The First Voyage Round the World.”

This is Pigafetta's account of Magellan's circumnavigation.
Between 1524 and 1525, Pigafetta wrote his memoirs on the historic journey, drawn up from the meticulous diaries that he’d kept over the three years of travel.
The original diary of the first voyage around the world was given as a gift to Emperor Charles V, who ruled over the Spanish Empire and the Holy Roman Empire, and subsequently vanished, the Spanish court likely wanting to obliterate the merits of the Portuguese Magellan.

Antonio Pigafetta was an inconvenient witness to what happened during the expedition, and was hastily dismissed by the Spanish emperor.
However, on 5 August 1524, the Senate of the Republic of Venice granted Pigafetta the privilege of printing his diary.

Antonio Pigafetta details Magellan’s travels in The First Voyage Round the World (Credit: Rossi Thomson, by permission of the Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana – Vicenza)

The Biblioteca Civica Bertoliana keeps a later 18th-Century edition of Pigafetta’s diary with colour illustrations.
Reading this extraordinary book gives us a first-hand understanding of Magellan’s achievement and the incredible hardship his crew suffered.
From Magellan discovering the Pacific Ocean for Europe and giving it a name in line with its mild and gentle character (pacifico means ‘peaceful’ in Spanish and Portuguese) to important observations made by Pigafetta about the flora, fauna and the anthropology of the new lands, the text is peppered with geographic facts that propelled Europe’s scientific knowledge forward.

Of course, the most important finding made was that Earth is indeed round, and Magellan’s crew (according to Pigafetta’s calculations) covered 14,460 leagues (43,400 miles) to prove this.

Centuries after these seminal travel books and maps were first drawn and printed, it is quite incredible to think about the jumps in human knowledge our world has experienced since then.
Like bright lights in a deep fog, they led the world’s navigators, explorers, travellers and scientists step by step forward, charting the world and allowing us to have it at our fingertips today.

Links :


Saturday, August 18, 2018

An English map of the Kingdom of France is represented under the form of a ship.

Relief shown pictorially. - Also shows administrative divisions (departments). 
Text, calendar, and map names in English. Index of departments in French. 
Title from first sentence of text at lower left. 
"Published as the act directs, June 28th 1796, by the author, no. 49 Great Portland Street." 
Paris meridian. 
Watermark: 1794 J. Whatman.
Library of Congress

Friday, August 17, 2018

‘They be pirates’ : An old scourge is reappearing in the Caribbean

These fisherman are on the lookout for pirates Fishermen in Trinidad and Tobago fish close to shore or risk becoming easy prey for pirates taking advantage of the instability in nearby Venezuela. 
(Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

From WashingtonPost by Anthony Faiola | Photo and video by Jahi Chikwendiu

CEDROS, Trinidad and Tobago —
In the flickers of sunlight off the cobalt blue of the Caribbean sea, the vessel appeared as a cut on the horizon.
It sailed closer.
But the crew of the Asheena took no heed.
“We be lookin’ for our red fish as normal, thinkin’ they be fishin’, too,” said Jimmy Lalla, 36, part of the crew that had dropped lines in Trinidadian waters last April a few miles off the lawless Venezuelan coast.

The other vessel kept approaching.
“They be needin’ help?” Lalla recalled wondering as it pulled aside their 28-foot pirogue.
A short, sinewy man jumped on board, shouting in Spanish and waving a pistol.
“Then we knowin’,” Lalla said.
“They be pirates.”

Fisherman Jimmy Lalla, 36, moves a bike at his home near the water in Woodland, Trinidad.
He and the first mate on their fishing vessel fled a pirate attack by jumping overboard; the boat’s captain was kidnapped and is still missing.

Centuries after Blackbeard’s cannons fell silent and the Jolly Roger came down from rum ports across the Caribbean, the region is confronting a new and less romanticized era of pirates.

Political and economic crises are exploding from Venezuela to Nicaragua to Haiti, sparking anarchy and criminality.
As the rule of law breaks down, certain spots in the Caribbean, experts say, are becoming more dangerous than they’ve been in years.

Often, observers say, the acts of villainy appear to be happening with the complicity or direct involvement of corrupt officials — particularly in the waters off collapsing Venezuela.
“It’s criminal chaos, a free-for-all, along the Venezuelan coast,” said Jeremy McDermott, co-director of Insight Crime, a nonprofit organization that studies organized crime in Latin America and the Caribbean.

A raincoated fisherman walks through the mist on the beach in Trinidad as a boat makes its way to shore.

A Trinidadian coast guard vessel patrols the Gulf of Paria between Trinidad and the east coast of Venezuela.
Fishermen work off the coast of Trinidad.
The region has experienced a surge in piracy.
Crew members inspect the haul.
Theirs is legal; other boats plying the same waters engage in smuggling.

A raincoated fisherman walks through the mist on the beach in Trinidad as a boat makes its way to shore.
Comprehensive data on piracy is largely lacking for Latin America and the Caribbean.
But a two-year study by the nonprofit Oceans Beyond Piracy recorded 71 major incidents in the region in 2017 — including robberies of merchant vessels and attacks on yachts — up 163 percent from the previous year.
The vast majority happened in Caribbean waters.

 Caribbean waters with the GeoGarage platform (NGA charts)

The incidents range from glorified muggings on the high seas to barbaric attacks worthy of 17th-century pirates.
In April, for instance, masked men boarded four Guyanese fishing boats floating 30 miles off the coast of the South American nation.
The crews, according to survivors’ accounts, were doused with hot oil, hacked with machetes and thrown overboard, then their boats were stolen.
Of the 20 victims, five survived; the rest died or were left unaccounted for.

David Granger, the president of Guyana, decried the attack as a “massacre.”
Guyanese authorities have suggested that it could have been linked to gang violence in neighboring Suriname.
“They said they would take the boat and that everyone should jump overboard,” survivor Deonarine Goberdhan, 47, told Reuters.
After being beaten and thrown in the sea, he said, “I tried to keep my head above water so I could get air. I drank a lot of salt water. I looked to the stars and moon. I just hoped and prayed.”

 A Trinidadian coast guard vessel patrols the Gulf of Paria between Trinidad and the est coast of Venezuela

There have been reports of piracy over the past 18 months near Honduras, Nicaragua, Haiti and St.
Lucia.
But nowhere has the surge been more notable, analysts say, than off the coast of Venezuela.

An economic crisis in the South American country has sent inflation soaring toward 1 million percent, making food and medicine scarce.
Malnutrition is spreading; disease is rampant; water and power grids are failing from a lack of trained staff and spare parts.
Police and military are abandoning their posts as their paychecks become nearly worthless.
Under the socialist government of President Nicolás Maduro, repression and corruption have increased. 

The conditions are compelling some Venezuelans to take desperate action.
One Venezuelan port official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to address official corruption, said that Venezuelan coast guard officers have been boarding anchored vessels and demanding money and food.
He said commercial ships, in response, are increasingly anchoring farther off the coast, and turning off their motors and lights to avoid being seen at night.

 Fishermen work off the coast of Trinidad.
The region has experienced a surge in piracy.

It doesn’t always work.
In July, one vessel from the local company Conferry, which offers freight services to nearby Venezuelan islands, was raided by three men brandishing knives and guns near the port of Guanta.
Four crew members were left tied up for hours while food and electronics were stolen.

In January in Puerto La Cruz, also on the northeast coast, seven armed burglars boarded an anchored tanker.
They tied up the vessel’s guard on duty, then robbed its stores.
Similar incidents have been reported in the months since, according to the Commercial Crime Services division of the Paris-based International Chamber of Commerce.

 Trinidad & Tobago with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO chart)

Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation of 1.4 million people within eyeshot of the Venezuelan coast, has long worried about crime emanating from its neighbor.
Since the 1990s, drug smugglers have shipped marijuana and Colombian cocaine from Venezuelan ports to Trinidad, and from there to other Caribbean countries and beyond.

Trafficking and piracy, locals say, have recently been expanding and becoming more violent.
Five Trinidadian fishermen in the southern port of Cedros, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing fear for their safety, said in interviews that they had witnessed a burst of Venezuelan boats arriving in recent months smuggling military-issue guns as well as drugs, women and exotic animals.
“Sometimes, those Venezuelans are willing to trade the guns and animals for food,” said one 41-year-old fisherman.

Another fisherman said he was held for hours in January by Spanish-speaking pirates while his brother was contacted to pay a $500 ransom.
A Trinidadian coast guard vessel was dispatched to patrol the waters this year after several high-profile incidents of smuggling and piracy.
But locals say the criminals simply wait until the patrol passes, and then they act.
Trinidadian authorities did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Fishermen watch a boat, which they suspect is being used by smugglers, speed toward Trinidad from Venezuela.

Opposition politicians, however, are decrying a surge in piracy.
They also say that the flow of automatic weapons from Venezuela — some of which appear to be coming from military stores — is contributing to a swelling homicide rate in Trinidad.
“This reminds me of how the problems started off the coast of eastern Africa,” said Roodal Moonilal, a lawmaker from the opposition United National Congress party, referring to a sharp rise in ship hijackings off the coast of lawless Somalia several years ago.
“What we’re seeing — the piracy, the smuggling — it’s the result of Venezuela’s political and economic collapse.”

For those who make their living plying the warm waters of the Caribbean, piracy is a new source of fear.
These days, locals are fishing closer to shore, and sometimes at night, to avoid the risk of attacks.

On the April afternoon when the Asheena was boarded, Lalla said, he was terrified.
“The man talkin’ Spanish, he point the gun at me, then he point at the water. I be knowin’. He be wantin’ that I jump,” he said.
So he leaped overboard.
The first mate — Narendra Sankar, 22 — followed him moments later.
The men were swimming toward an offshore oil rig when Sankar suffered a cramp.
“I had already reached the rig, so I had to be jumpin’ back in, to help him,” Lalla said.
“He was goin’ to be drownin’.”

They watched as the pirates seized their vessel, outfitted with two expensive outboard motors.
Their captain, Andell Plummer, was still aboard.
The two men were rescued from the water by a passing fishing boat.
When they reported the attack to authorities, Lalla said, they were told: “We have no boat to go after them; we can do nothing.”

There has been no word of Plummer since, the men say.
Trinidad’s Ministry of National Security did not respond to a request for comment about his case.
“My boy, they take him!” said the captain’s father, Deoraj Balsingh, 58, standing by a muddy Trinidadian dock surrounded by boats.
“We don’t know,” Balsingh said.
“We don’t know if he livin’ or if he dead.”

Deoraj Balsingh, 58, still awaits word on the fate of his kidnapped son, captain Andell Plummer.

Links :

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Models may help reduce bycatch from longline fishing



Fourteen environmental variables are combined in a model that predicts monthly locations of longline fishing fleets.
The model should help prevent accidental bycatch of sharks, seabirds and other species.
Credit: Duke Univ. Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab

From Phys

Hundreds of thousands of sharks, sea birds and other marine species are accidentally killed each year after they become snagged or entangled in longline fishing gear.

New models developed by a Duke University-led team may help reduce this threat by giving regulatory agencies a powerful new tool to predict the month-by-month movements of longline fishing fleets on the high seas.
The predictions should help determine where and when the boats will enter waters where by-catch risks are greatest.

"By comparing our models with data showing where by-catch species are likely to be each month, ship captains, national agencies and regional fisheries management organizations can pinpoint potential hotspots they may want to temporarily avoid or place off-limits," said Guillermo Ortuño Crespo, a doctoral candidate in the Marine Geospatial Ecology Lab at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment.
"This represents a movement away from a reactive approach to fisheries management—where we only know about problems as or after they occur—to a more proactive approach that helps us stay one step ahead of the game," he said.

The average coefficient of variation of predicted high seas fishing suitability for 2015 and 2016.
Tropical latitudes show, on average, more predictive stability throughout the study period, whereas temperate and subpolar waters show higher degrees of variability of suitable habitat.
Gray areas around coastlines depict EEZs excluded from this study.
Data are from GFW.

Ortuño Crespo and his colleagues describe their new models in a peer-reviewed paper August 8 in Science Advances.

To devise the models, they collaborated with Global Fishing Watch to collect geospatial information from individual boats' automatic identification system (AIS) signals.
AIS data shows the movements and distribution of longline fishing fleets operating in the high seas in 2015 and 2016.

Then they statistically correlated each ship's fishing efforts to 14 environmental variables—such as sea surface temperatures or distance to the nearest seamount—that influence a region's seasonal suitability as a habitat for species targeted by longliners.
This allowed them to create highly accurate models that predict where the fishing fleets will be each month of the year.

The new models track data for fleets from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, China and Spain, which accounts for most of the longline fishing currently taking place in the open ocean beyond national jurisdictions.
Future models could include fleets from other nations and offer expanded functionality that will allow regulatory agencies to view the data within a global context or break it down by individual nation, region or fleet.

"If we can provide this level of information, it becomes a highly practical management tool for the agencies charged with managing fishing on the high seas," Ortuño Crespo said.

In longline fishing, hundreds or even thousands of individual fishing lines with baited hooks are hung off a main line that can extend for miles across the sea.
Fishermen typically use longline gear to catch swordfish, tuna and other commercially valuable fish that live in the upper depths of the open sea, but the bait also attracts non-targeted marine species such as sharks and sea birds, which get snagged on the hooks or entangled in the lines.

"Blue sharks, mako sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks, thresher sharks and silky sharks are among the species most frequently killed by longlines, and some of them are listed as species of concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species," Ortuño Crespo said.
"The industry has made great strides in developing safer gear, but hundreds of thousands of animals are still being killed each year."

Getting the new models into the hands of regulators, industry leaders and policymakers is critical, and time is of the essence, said Patrick N. Halpin, professor of marine geospatial ecology at Duke and a co-author of the study
"Climate change and fishing pressures are the two main drivers of ecological impacts in the open ocean, and there is a possibility that neither of them will be part of United Nations negotiations this September on protecting marine biodiversity beyond national jurisdictions," Halpin said.
"Some countries, especially those that do a lot of deep-sea fishing, do not want to include fisheries in the discussions.
We hope our findings will help change their attitudes."

Links :

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Giraglia 2018 : the spirit of yachting

The 66th edition of the Rolex Giraglia takes place from 8 – 16 June and marks the 20th anniversary of Rolex's involvement with the event.
Organized by the Yacht Club Italiano, with the support of the Société Nautique de Saint-Tropez, this internationally renowned competition regularly attracts an impressive fleet of over 250 yachts.
A major fixture in the Mediterranean yachting season, the Rolex Giraglia offers both inshore and offshore racing serving up the perfect blend of camaraderie and competition.

The Rolex Giraglia is a true festival of sailing.
Saint-Tropez provides an elegant and exclusive setting for the start of this offshore yacht race, which regularly draws an impressively global fleet of over 250 crews.
Following arrival races, the fleet gathers in Saint-Tropez for three days of inshore competition before embarking on a 241-nautical mile offshore race to Genoa, Italy via the Giraglia rock, an imposing outcrop of historic navigational importance off Corsica.
The Rolex Giraglia is more than a yacht race, it is also a symbol of friendship between countries, sailors and yacht clubs. 

Links :

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Open to change: how Open Data will save our oceans

all pictures from 

From Nor Shipping by Kent Erik Kristiansen

We can choose.
Share our maritime data, prosper, create value and safeguard our oceans.
Or keep it to ourselves and slowly stagnate, both commercially and environmentally.
Steven Adler says it’s time to act.

It’s difficult to eat when you’re discussing a subject you burn for.
Steven Adler, a global pioneer in the field of data strategy and governance, has been trying to get a bite of his burger for the last ten minutes.
The problem is, every time there’s a break in conversation a new thought fires from his cerebral cortex, reaching his mouth before the rapidly cooling food does.
“Look, people you don’t know will have insights you can’t imagine,” he says, as a slither of lettuce slides out from the edge of the bun hovering in his hands.
“There are seven billion people on the planet and I guarantee that some of them will have ideas for your data you haven’t come up with, to do things you won’t be able to do.”

Open data is the subject.
Or why, more precisely, the maritime industry must, and he stresses must, follow a wider business and societal trend and share the huge volume of data it collects.


Value creation

“The value of any data is directly proportional to its utility – if you want to increase the value of data you have to increase its use,” he stresses.
“One maritime organization collecting data for its own purposes can never maximize the value of that data.
For one thing they can only compare it to their own data and, even if you’re a company with a lot of ships, you only have a tiny proportion of the 80,000 vessels in the world fleet.
That means your observations and insights will be very narrow.


“What’s more, one business on its own could never anticipate all the uses their data could be put to if made available to others.
It’s also a waste of money for vessels to collect the same data as one another.
Different ships sailing the same routes, but owned by different companies, could add geo temporal and geo spatial value and create rich new data that could help us all understand how our oceans are changing over time.
When everyone shares open data, everyone wins.”

Any shipowners or managers reading this may now be thinking ‘but why should we share our data with the competition, that’s hardly smart?’
But hold on for a second, we’ll get to that.



Leading the way

Adler knows what he’s talking about.
A veteran of his field, he spent 21 years at IBM, ending up as Chief Data Strategist, patenting the IBM Enterprise Privacy Architecture and helping lead and communicate the global giant’s overall corporate vision.
He is recognized as a prime mover in the establishment of the fields of Internet Insurance, Data Governance, Data Strategy and People Data, and in 2015 was appointed to the US Commerce Department Data Advisory Council (CDAC), the nation’s first Federal Advisory Council focused on how data could improve economic growth.
He has also, amongst other roles and achievements, been the Chief Data Officer for the City of Medellin in Columbia, helping it create and implement an open data strategy. It’s hardly surprising lunch is taking second place.


Empowering change

“Look at what the open data movement has achieved in the civic environment,” he says.
“This is a simple idea embraced by most major cities around the world – making their data open relating to issues such as transportation routes, public services, arrest rates and so on, so it’s available to anyone that wants to access and use it.
Suddenly we see it being leveraged by third parties, for example by software vendors that utilise it to create important new services, jobs, innovations and wealth.


“How? Well, real estate applications that use census data to provide prospective homebuyers with information on neighbourhoods.
Or restaurant guides that use food hygiene inspection data as part of recommendation criteria.
Or civic planning groups that open up planning applications to the community for opinions and expert input on new developments and their impacts and advantages for local areas.
Look at your phone – how many of your apps use openly available data to provide you with valuable services?
“This is a good thing. A very good thing. Societies benefit and businesses benefit in ways that those that originally gave access to the data could never possibly have imagined.”


He notes such examples are public sector entities providing Open Data funded by taxpayers and, in doing so, empowering business to grow.
“Now we need the private sector to step up and publish open data about the oceans in real time… and we need this urgently.
If we don’t act, and get a lot of things right in the next 10 years, we face catastrophic biodiversity loss in our oceans.”



Priceless potential

Adler stresses that, with the proliferation of sensors and digital technology now available, more data has been collected on the oceans in the past two years than in the entire history of the planet prior to that.
But if it’s not shared then it’s value will never be realized.
On the subject of privacy he is quick to clarify that maritime and ocean businesses will not, and should not, be asked to share either business critical or personal data.
“We don’t want that, we don’t need that,” he states.
“We want the information that they, that you, are collecting on our world.”
Adler sees ships as platforms just waiting to be utilised to help us to manage, and essentially save, our fragile ocean environments.
He believes the data they collect can be pooled to unlock unique insights into the state of the ocean, the trends in its development, and the ways in which we can exploit resources while actually safeguarding and supporting its well-being.
“The data collected could be priceless,” he opines.
“Not only can we continue to refine energy efficiency and performance, but we can gain in-depth knowledge of temperature variations, tidal flows, plastic pollution, weather pattern development, deoxygenation, new marine life… the list goes on.
“We can use existing and new technology to help manage fish stocks, create safer and more efficient vessel movements, position wind and tidal farms, open up new tourism possibilities, develop smart aquaculture, protect urban coastal zones… to develop ocean activity in not only a sensible, responsible manner, but in an informed, intelligent way, with concrete data to enable better decision making.
The value of the data is only limited by our imagination.
And if there’s potentially seven billion imaginations that can access it, then that value is…”
He stops.
Takes a bite of the burger and, smiling, ruminates for a few tantalising seconds.
“…Almost unlimited.”

Leaders from across the political, economic, environmental and risk sectors gathered in Bermuda for the first Ocean Risk Summit on May 08-10, 2018.
The event presented high-level speakers providing expert data, analysis and innovative tools to help participants identify potential exposures to ocean risk and prepare to tackle its broad-ranging consequences.
Together, attendees at the summit helped to generate new and dynamic solutions.
 
Inevitable shift

Adler, who stepped down from IBM last year, and now enjoys a number of advisory and consultant roles, is speaking after an invitation from Nor-Shipping to participate in its ground-breaking Opening Oceans Conference (OOC).
This focused on developing new, lucrative and sustainable business opportunities within the ocean environment.
His message to the audience, and to everyone attending Nor-Shipping next year (taking place in Oslo and Lillestrøm, Norway, from 04 to 07 June 2019), as well as the wider maritime industry, is simple: “Share. And the sooner the better.”


“Within the next three years the maritime and ocean industries will establish a culture of sharing data,” he predicts.
“It’s inevitable. The benefits it will bring for sustainability, both environmentally and commercially, are simply too great to ignore. We have the infrastructure to do it today – it’s called the cloud – and the curiosity, talent and determination of countless millions of minds to extract real value from it.
So, what are waiting for?
Let’s unleash the power of your data.
“Share!”

Links :

Monday, August 13, 2018

Scientists reveal submarine canyon on edge of Ireland's continental shelf

The Porcupine Bank Canyon showing several hundred metre-high cliffs.
Credit: University College Cork

From Phys

A group of scientists from across the globe have revealed the stunning details of a submarine canyon on the edge of the country's continental shelf, after mapping an area twice the size of Malta.

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-scientists-reveal-submarine-canyon-edge.html#jCp
A group of scientists from across the globe have revealed the stunning details of a submarine canyon on the edge of the country's continental shelf, after mapping an area twice the size of Malta.


The group will return tomorrow morning (August 10) after a research expedition onboard the RV Celtic Explorer with Holland I ROV, led by University College Cork (UCC) in Ireland, mapping 1800 km2 of seabed to image the upper canyon over a fortnight.
The find is significant in understanding more about how submarine canyon helps transport carbon to the deep ocean.
Although there is excess CO2 in the atmosphere (the greenhouse effect), the ocean is absorbing this at the surface, and canyons pump this into the deep ocean where it cannot get back into the atmosphere.

 Map showing proposed survey locations for the CoCoHaCa2 survey

Porcupine Bank with the GeoGarage platform (UKHO map)

INFOMAR is a seabed mapping project
run jointly by the Marine Institute and the Geological Survey of Ireland

The expedition, led by Dr. Aaron Lim of UCC's School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences (BEES), utilises the Marine Institute's Holland 1 Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and state-of-the-art mapping technologies to reveal the nature of the canyon.
"This is a vast submarine canyon system, with near-vertical 700m cliff in places and going as deep as 3000m. You could stack 10 Eiffel towers on top of each other in there," said Dr. Lim (BEES-UCC), "So far from land this canyon is a natural laboratory from which we feel the pulse of the changing Atlantic."

Cold water corals on the rim of the Porcupine Bank Canyon.
Credit: University College Cork According to Dr. Lim, this discovery coupled with recent findings on the Irish-Atlantic margin shows the advances in both Ireland's marine technology and scientific workforce.

"Ireland is world-class, and for a small country we punch above our weight."
The Porcupine Bank Canyon is the westernmost submarine canyon on the contiguous Irish margin 320 km west of Dingle and exits onto the abyssal plain at 4000m water depth.
The upper canyon is full of cold-water corals forming reefs and mounds which create a rim on the lip of the canyon 30m tall and 28 km long.
The coral reefs on the rim of the canyon eventually break off and slide down into the canyon where they form an accumulation of coral rubble deeper within the canyon.
The ROV ventured deeper into the canyon and found significant build-ups of coral debris that have fallen from hundreds of meters above.

A flag planted at the Porcupine Bank Canyon.
Credit: University College Cork This is all about transporting carbon stored cold water corals into the deep.

The corals get their carbon from dead plankton raining down from the ocean surface so ultimately from our atmosphere," said Professor Andy Wheeler, School of BEES, UCC, and the Irish Centre for Research in Applied Geosciences (iCRAG).
"Increasing CO2 concentrations in our atmosphere are causing our extreme weather; oceans absorb this CO2 and canyons are a rapid route for pumping it into the deep ocean where it is safely stored away."
The new detailed maps show lobes of sediment debris and the scars from submarine slides as the canyon walls collapse.
There is also exposure of old crustal bedrock and incised channels in the canyon floor carved by sediment avalanches.

What the Porcupine Bank Canyon would look like with the sea drained out with steep cliffed edges and cold-water coral mounds in the top.
Credit: University College Cork

"We took cores with the ROV, and the sediments reveal that although the canyon is quiet now, periodically it is a violent place where the seabed gets ripped up and eroded," added Professor Wheeler.
The new mapping data shows a rim feature along the lip of the canyon at approximately 600m water depth.
"When we sent down the ROV, we saw that this rim is made of a profusion of cold water corals, which appears to extend for miles along the edge of the canyon," said Professor Luis Conti, University of Sao Paulo.

Links :

Sunday, August 12, 2018

The first sea chart of the New Netherlands, 1656

 Title: Pascaarte [pas caarte] van Nieu Nederlandt uytgegeven door Arnold Colom t’ Amsterdam… 
- 1656 -
An early Dutch sea chart of New Netherland with Virginia and New England by Arnold Colom, depicting in detail the Atlantic coast of North America, approximately from today’s Gloucester, Massachusetts to the north, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to the southwest.
The main provinces are outlined in a different color and marked as Virginia, Nieu Nederlant, and Nieu Engelant. Early English settlements in New England are clearly identified as Salem, Baston (Boston), Pleymuyt (Plymouth), etc.
New Netherland included territories of today’s states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

New Netherland 'Novi Belgoo Novaeqe Angliae Nec Non PartisOVI BELGII NOVAEQUE ANGLIAE NEC NON PARTIS VIRGINIAE TABULA'
Vervaardigd in ca. 1684.This map of the current New England was published by Nicolaes Visscher II (1649-1702).
Visscher copied first a map by Jan Janssonius (1588-1664) from 1651 and added a view of New Amsterdam, the current Manhattan.
The map is very accurate: each European town which existed at the time has been represented.

 Today with NOAA nautical raster chart in the GeoGarage platform

Friday, August 10, 2018

The unpleasant reason men navigate better than women


Sea Hero Quest Game - The first scientific results

From BBC by

Men are better at navigating than women, according to a massive study, but there's not much for men to be proud about.
Scientists at University College London say the difference has more to do with discrimination and unequal opportunities than any innate ability.
The findings come from research into a test for dementia.
But it has also given an unprecedented insight into people's navigational ability all around the world.

The experiment is actually a computer game, Sea Hero Quest, that has had more than four million players.
It's a nautical adventure to save an old sailor's lost memories and with a touch of a smartphone screen, you chart a course round desert islands and icy oceans.

Introducing Sea Hero Quest, a mobile game created to change the future of dementia research.

The game anonymously records the player's sense of direction and navigational ability.
One clear picture, published in the journal Current Biology, was that men were better at navigating than women.
But why?

Prof Hugo Spiers thinks he has found the answer by looking at data from the World Economic Forum's Gender Gap Index - which studies equality in areas from education to health and jobs to politics.
He told the BBC: "We don't think the effects we see are innate.
"So countries where there is high equality between men and women, the difference between men and women is very small on our spatial navigation test.
"But when there's high inequality the difference between men and women is much bigger. And that suggests the culture people are living in has an effect on their cognitive abilities."


Sea Hero Quest has produced a raft of other findings.
  • Denmark, Finland and Norway have the world's best navigational skills - possibly down to their "Viking blood"
  • Sense of direction is in constant decline after you emerge from your teenage years
  • People in wealthier countries also tend to be the best navigators
The deeper the colour, the stronger the country's navigational ability
The popularity of the game has turned it into the world's biggest dementia research experiment.
Being lost or disoriented is one of the first signs of the disease.
The next step in the research is to see if catching sudden declines in navigational ability could be used to test for dementia.

Tim Parry, the director of Alzheimer's Research UK, said: "The data from Sea Hero Quest is providing an unparalleled benchmark for how human navigation varies and changes across age, location and other factors.
"This really is only the beginning of what we might learn about navigation from this powerful analysis."

This project was funded by Deutsche Telekom and the game was designed by Glitchers.

Links :

Thursday, August 9, 2018

The Bermuda Triangle: A breeding ground for rogue waves or a pit of human mistakes?

Also sinisterly known as the Devil's Triangle, the Bermuda Triangle consists of a region in the western part of the North Atlantic Ocean, and is defined by points in Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico.
It stretches across less than a thousand miles on any one side.

From LiveSciences by Yasemin Saplakoglu

…and then they just disappeared.

The Bermuda Triangle, a mysterious stretch of ocean between Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the tip of Florida, has allegedly, throughout the years, swallowed a horde of unsuspecting ships, planes and people.

Charles Berlitz's 1974 book kicked off a craze lasting into the 1980's
Sadly our planet’s mysteries have largely been explained
thanks to the proliferation of TV channels with midweek schedules to fill.

Many tales have been told about the vanishings.
Aliens captured the humans for research.
Some geomagnetic storm confused the pilots' navigational systems.
The lost continent of Atlantis sucked the vessels into its grasp with a mysterious, unidentified force.

Better yet, strong vortexes slurped the victims straight into another dimension.
But scientists throughout the years have pointed out that there are plausible explanations for the vanishings, and that the risks of traveling through the Bermuda Triangle are no different than other spots in the ocean.

The SS Marine Sulphur Queen, a converted T2 tanker ship carrying molten sulfur (sulphur is the British spelling of sulfur) and 39 crew members, disappeared near the southern coast of Florida.
It was last heard from on Feb. 4, 1963, when it sent a routine radio message.
When it failed to make further communication, search crews were dispatched to locate it.
After more than two weeks of looking, the rescue team only found a few shards of debris and life preservers, shown above.
It's a bit unsettling that the Sulphur Queen vanished into "the Devil's Triangle," since folklore says that the king of the underworld reeks of sulfur — and what's that creepy shadow in the photo's background, anyway?

New life has been breathed into one such theory: that the vessels could have easily been overcome by giant and unexpected rogue waves.
This hypothesis isn't new, but a group of U.K. scientists recently discussed the evidence for freak waves and other theories (including the role of human error) in a three-episode documentary series "The Bermuda Triangle Enigma," produced by the BBC for Channel 5.

This photo shows the U.S.S. Cyclops (AC-4), a massive collier ship that was lost at sea in 1918.
After leaving Barbados for Baltimore, Md., on March 4, the vessel vanished without a trace, taking 306 crew members and passengers with it.
It remains the single largest loss of life in U.S. Naval history that was not the result of combat.

"There is no doubt this area is prone to rogue waves," Simon Boxall, an oceanographer at the University of Southampton and one of the scientists on the team, told Live Science.
They are possible "anywhere you get multiple storms coming together."

The USS Nereus (AC-10) was one of four Proteus-class colliers built for the U.S. Navy during World War I. The craft was named after the mythological Greek sea god Nereus, protector of sailors.
The USS Nereus was lost at sea sometime after Dec. 10, 1941, as it made its way to Portland, Maine, from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands.
It disappeared with a crew of 61 along the same route as its sister-ship, the USS Proteus, had vanished from the previous month.
The USS Proteus (AC-9) was a Navy collier that had been converted into a merchant ship.
It was never heard from again after Nov. 23, 1941, when it left port from St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, bound for an East Coast port in the United States.
The approximately 540-foot-long (165 meters) ship was carrying 58 men and a cargo of bauxite ore to be made into aluminum.
Two of Proteus's three sister-ships, the Cyclops and Nereus, also vanished without a trace in the Bermuda Triangle. 

Rogue waves are steep and tall, like "walls of water," and they often hit unexpectedly, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The tip of South Africa, for example, is very prone to them, where waves from storms in the South Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean and the Southern Ocean all come together at once, Boxall said.
Indeed, there were similar disappearances of big container vessels and tankers off the tip of South Africa throughout the years, he said.

This also holds true for the Bermuda Triangle, where storms can come from all directions, like Mexico, the equator and farther east in the Atlantic.
If each wave can reach over 30 feet (10 meters) tall, occasionally they can coincide at the right moment and create a rogue, or "freak," wave that can be over 100 feet (30 m) high.

Engineers at the University of Southampton in England built some ship models, including one of the USS Cyclops, a vessel that vanished in the Bermuda Triangle in 1918 with over 300 people on board.

They simulated rogue waves in a wave tank and found that, indeed, ships can sink quickly if hit by them.
The bigger the ship, the bigger the difficulty staying afloat, they found.
Small ships can get swamped by them, but sometimes they can ride the wave if they hit it bow-on, Boxall said.
But big ships — designed to be supported in the front by the top of one wave and in the back by the top of another — snap in two.
Gas bubbles, magnetic anomalies…humans being humans?

People often talk about weird magnetic anomalies over the Bermuda Triangle, Boxall said.
"There aren't any," he said.
There are magnetic anomalies in the world that have to do with the Earth's mantle moving beneath the crust, but the nearest one is about 1,000 miles [1,600 km] south, off the coast of Brazil — a long way away from the Bermuda Triangle, he said.

Another theory has to do with pockets of explosive methane gas that could, due to some disturbance, float up toward the water's surface and cause the water to be less dense than the ship, leading the ship to sink.
However, no experiment to date has been able to prove that this is possible, Boxall said.

"Theoretically, it could be happening, but there are lots of places in the world where this can happen," not just in the Bermuda Triangle, Boxall said.
Instead, he thinks the most common cause for the mysterious vanishings is human error.


The Bermuda Triangle's eerie reputation began on Dec. 5, 1945, when flight 19, a squadron of five U.S. Navy torpedo bombers, vanished into thin air during a routine training exercise.
The planes were fully equipped and had been thoroughly checked before they departed from the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale in Florida.
What made the disappearance even more mysterious is that it occurred during peacetime, making it less likely that they were shot down.
This photo shows a U.S. Navy TBF Grumman Avenger flight, similar to the Flight 19 planes.
Before losing radio contact off the coast of southern Florida, Flight 19's flight leader was reportedly heard saying: "Everything looks strange, even the ocean," and "We are entering white water, nothing seems right."
The aircrafts and 14 crew members were never found, despite a lengthy investigation by the government. In fact, a search-and-rescue aircraft with 13 men onboard was dispatched to locate the missing planes, but that aircraft and its passengers also inexplicably disappeared.
And thus, the Bermuda Triangle's spooky reputation was solidified.

The famous disappearance of Flight 19 — five U.S. Navy aircraft that vanished during a training mission in 1945 — that led one journalist in 1964 to give the area its current name, probably occurred because the crew got lost and ran out of fuel, Boxall said.

About a third of all registered and privately owned ocean craft in the U.S. are in the states and islands of the Bermuda Triangle area, he said.
And according to the most recent 2016 figures from the Coast Guard, 82 percent of incidents in this area that year involved people who had no formal training or experience of being at sea, he added.

"So, you take a third of the entire boating population of the U.S., you dump them in the Bermuda Triangle," and what you get is mysterious vanishings, Boxall said.
You don't need any licensing or specific equipment like radios or navigation maps to take a boat to sea, he added.

"A number of times, working at sea, we've come across people who are navigating using a road map, who are relying on their mobile phones as their means of communication, discovering … you get 30 miles offshore [and] you lose the signal," Boxall said.

Retrieving sunken planes and ships from the Bermuda Triangle is especially difficult because it is home to the Puerto Rico Trench, which reaches depths of about 30,100 feet (9,200 meters) and is the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean.
Crafts that sink to such low points are seldom seen again.
This underwater photo shows an unidentified Caribbean shipwreck discovered by NOAA oceanography researchers on April 1, 2011.

In addition, "environmental considerations could explain many, if not most, of the disappearances," NOAA wrote on its website.
"The ocean has always been a mysterious place to humans, and when foul weather or poor navigation is involved, it can be a very deadly place."

NOAA also says the area could be prone to accidents because of the Gulf Stream, a strong and fast ocean current that can cause "rapid, sometimes violent, changes in weather," and shallow waters around the Caribbean islands that can prove fatal for ships.

"You can extend the Bermuda Triangle to ever bigger areas…what you'll find is that the Bermuda Triangle covers the entire globe," Boxall said.
"Rogue waves can hit lots of different places, methane bubbles can hit lots of different places, and wherever you get a high concentration of amateurs without any experience you're going to get a high concentration of mysterious disappearances."

But, you know, maybe it is aliens capturing unsuspecting humans using vortexes that lead straight into their laboratories that they've set up in the lost city of Atlantis.

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